Ontario money drying up for Cornwall, county

(Newswatch Group/File)

SD&G – Ahead of municipal budget time, there’s a mixed bag of winners and losers in money coming from the provincial government.

Municipalities received notices this month for the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) – a provincial grant which, in some cases, makes up a significant portion of municipal budgets. This is especially true for smaller municipalities.

It’s part of the Ontario government’s four year phase down of the funding.

Here’s the provincial transfer payments for 2016 and what was given by the Ontario government this year (2015):

Cornwall 2016 – $4,882,700 2015 – $5,744,300 Trend – Down

United Counties of SD&G 2016 – $1,852,600 2015 – $2,179,500 Trend – Down

North Stormont 2016 – $810,700 2015 – $858,700 Trend – Down

South Stormont 2016 – $845,300 2015 – $822,300 Trend – Up

North Dundas 2016 – $759,200 2015 – $701,600 Trend – Up

South Dundas 2016 – $948,900 2015 – $961,500 Trend – Down

North Glengarry 2016 – $2,187,500 2015 – $2,181,200 Trend – Up

South Glengarry 2016 – $974,900 2015 – $968,000 Trend – Up

For Cornwall, at 85 per cent of this year’s OMPF grant, CFO Maureen Adams believes the corporation will be able to absorb the draw-down through service uploading.

In an email to Cornwall Newswatch, Adams believes the municipality stands to save $570,000.

“This (reduction) will be partially offset by continued uploads for the Ontario Works benefits as well as court security costs. The savings in the benefit cost for OW is approximately $592,000 of which $415,000 is attributed to the City of Cornwall and approximately $177,000 to SD&G. The City of Cornwall is also forecasting a savings of approximately $155,000 in court security costs as a result of the continued upload,” Adams wrote.

But the picture and concern is not as rosy at the county, where CAO Tim Simpson said it’s a loss, especially for the smaller townships.

“Obviously, the province has ramped back their support of municipalities through the OMPF … from a significant amount of money … and as a percentage of our overall budget of $65 million … it’s something we’re concerned about,” Simpson said.

Simpson said it’s not a lot of money in the big picture. “The province seems to be getting out of the OMPF, which is unfortunate, because certainly there’s a partnership. They deliver services, we deliver services. They mandate services we have to deliver like the health unit and conservation authorities.”

The CAO believes they will be able of offset the loss in 2016 with continued savings in the O.P.P. contract.

Incoming Warden Jamie MacDonald said the OMPF is not only affecting the county but at the municipal level as well.

“It’s two steps forward with getting some money back from the O.P.P. and one step back with the OMPF,” said MacDonald. “North Glengarry is fortunate that we went up $6,000 but some of the others … North Stormont took a significant hit and they have the smallest tax base, that’s hard for those guys,” he told Cornwall Newswatch.

CAO Simpson said the province has committed to OMPF the next couple years but the long term plan for provincial funding is not known.

He said it’s creating a “difficult situation” for maintaining services, like health units and social services, as the OMPF was designed to offset the burden of provincial services run by municipalities.

“The property tax base supports a lot of the things that are provincially mandated and provincially, Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada … where municipalities are required to tax and support those services, where you go to British Columbia they are funded provincially 100 per cent.”

“It may make it very difficult in the future for all of the municipalities,” MacDonald added.

Cornwall is expected to start its budget work next month while the county will hit the books in March. SD&G municipalities are at various stages of their budget process for 2016.

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